BLTC Press Titles

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Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh

The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

Marco Polo

by George Makepeace Towle


Instead of going to school, he was taught at home by tutors and governesses; and happily his own tastes led him to find study interesting, so that he became a better scholar than most boys of his age. He especially loved history and narratives of adventure and discovery, and it was often difficult to persuade him to leave his books and go to bed. He was fond, too, of geography, and was wont to puzzle for hours over such rude maps and charts as he could lay his hands on; though at that period, the maps and charts in existence were but few, and represented but here and there patches of the world.

The Polo family lived all together in the great mansion that has been described. Marco's uncle, whose name also was Marco, was the eldest brother, and when Nicolo and Maffeo went on their travels, remained in Venice to retain charge of the important trading-house which they carried on in common. This elder Marco was a kindly, though rather proud and stately man; and while he treated his little nephews, deprived as they were both of father and mother, with gentleness, he kept a close watch upon their habits and conduct. As the phrase is, he "brought them up well;" and once in a great while, when young Marco's high spirits betrayed him into wild pranks, his uncle would shut him up in one of the remote rooms of the house. On this occasion the little fellow would beg, as a special favor, that one of his books might keep him company, and when his uncle refused this, the punishment he inflicted was indeed a severe one.

Besides their uncle, Marco and young Maffeo were left in the care of their aunt, the wife of that uncle who had gone away with their father; and their daily companions were their two cousins, the daughters of this aunt, not far from their own age. But their aunt was a fine lady of the doge's court, and was always going to balls, the theatre, or galas in the lagoon ; and so they saw but little of her. Marco and his brother spent many happy hours in their gondolas, which they themselves learned to manage with skill; and once in a while as they grew older, their uncle took them with him on hunting expeditions on the main land.

At this period, ferocious wars were continually going on between Venice and its great maritime rival, the republic of Genoa. Both struggled for the supremacy of Mediterranean commerce, and sought to gain as many military stations and fortresses as possible on the islands and seaboards of the Levant. In these wars, Venice up to this time bad been generally successful; the time was, indeed, drawing near when the Genoese would become the conquerors; but it had not yet come.

It was one of Marco's chief delights to watch the brilliant arrays of troops as they were reviewed by the doge in the Piazza before leaving for the seat of conflict: and to haunt the quays and watch the preparations for departure of the quaint war-galleys of the age. He caught the martial spirit which was then in the air, and often longed to be old enough to go to the wars and fight under the proud flag of Venice; and thus came to have adventurous and military tastes. He was not destined to indulge these tastes for many years to come; but the time was, long after, to arrive, when he would engage in furious battle with his country's foes, and have a romantic and thrilling experience in the fortunes of war.

At the period of his father's return from Cathay. Marco, as has been said, was fifteen years of age, a bright, promising boy, intelligent beyond his age, and a great favorite with all who knew him. It may well be believed that he was delighted to ,aee his father once more, after the lapse of so many years; and to hear from his lips the tale of his many and marvellous adventures in the East. Nicolo, on his side, was rejoiced to find his elder son grown up to be so vigorous and attractive a youth, and was extremely proud of him. He freely indulged Marco's desire to hear him recount his adventures; and used to sit talking with him for hours together. He soon perceived that Marco had a keen taste for a life of stirring adventure, and was far from displeased to make the discovery.

One day, when Nicolo had been at home for several months, he was chatting with Marco, and happened to say that he had given his promise to Kublai Khan to return to Cathay.

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